Under visited and less touristy than other parts of Europe, Ukraine is a colorful and proud country perched on the Black Sea, full of rugged beaches, wild forest, and craggy mountain plains. With a history full of folk traditions and diverse cultural influences, Ukraine offers travelers ski resorts, modern cities, and traditional villages, many of which feature UNESCO World Heritage Sites and well preserved historical relics. So join us as we take you through everything from mummies to mammoths on this whistle stop tour of the best places to visit in Ukraine.
The third largest city in Ukraine, Odesa is a seaport that rest of the shores of the mythical Black Sea. Now an important trade city, visitors gravitate to Odesa for the sandy beaches, clement weather, and sparkling waters, particularly Lanzheron Beach, a perfect place for sun worshippers. Odesa, also referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’, may be a large city but its construction gives it an intimate feel, with labyrinthine lanes to navigate as well as nooks and crannies to explore, ending in secluded squares and delightful houses painted in mellow pastel shades. The city’s big claim to fame is the mighty stairway that leads from the centre of town to the beach front, and there are also leafy parks like the City Gardens to enjoy, as well as a bit of culture in the form of the Odesa Opera House and the numerous theatres in the city.
Poltava, which sits of the Vorskala River, is a city steeped in military history due to a legendary battle in the 18th century between the Cossacks and the Russian Tsar Peter I, and with that in mind come to this city to view the military relics that still remain. These include the Column of Glory, October Park, and the preserved area of the Poltava Battlefield. Poltava is also known for its museums, several of which are dedicated to military history, as well as its main cathedral, the Assumption Cathedral, with its striking belfry. Once the place of such a pivotal moment in history, Poltava is now a relaxed and serene cultural city, with orchestras, theatres, and museums a plenty.
Found on the Khorol River, Myrhorod is essentially a sleepy spa town that became famous due to the mineral properties found in its underground springs. The slightly salty water can be drunk to improve digestive issues, or there are a number of spots where visitors can bathe. If you prefer not to swim then you can take a boat or pedalo out of the Khorol River, and there are a number of quirky features for visitors to Myrhorod to seek out, such as a towering illuminated windmill and a musical water fountain. The woodlands found in the city are also rather famous, and for the full romantic experience you can take a horse drawn carriage ride through the lush landscape.
Sitting neatly on the banks of the Desna River, Chernihiv is often referred to as one of the most ancient cities in all of Ukraine, apparently dating back from the 7th century, making a visit here feel rather like a trip back in time. It is also home to some of the most beautiful buildings in the country, including Catherine’s Church which instantly recognizable due to its golden cupolas. Other religious buildings of note are Pyatnytska Church that sits in the city’s Red Square, the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon stroll around the town center.
The city of Chernivtsi that lies at the base of the Carpathian Mountains is most famous for its designated UNESCO World Heritage Site of the former complex of the high priests that is now home to the National University, and was constructed in the Byzantine and Romanesque styles. The architecture of Chernivtsi is said to be similar to that of Vienna, leading to the name ‘Little Vienna’ to describe parts of the city, and many locals point to the relaxed nature of the city which has a strong cafe culture, as well as a range of notable bookshops and book stalls that are said to reflect the intellectual and poetic atmosphere found here.
The village of Bakota in the Podillia Region is home to the famous cave monastery built by Orthodox monks headed by Saint Anthony of Kiev. The monastery in the underground caves dates from the 12th century and visitors can view well preserved frescoes and paintings as well as remains of some of the monks who lived in the caves. In the present day, Bakota is now part of the National Environmental Park due to its rural location, and features craggy hills on the shores of the picturesque Dniester River. Visitors can ramble in the region and explore the settlement on foot to take in the splendid local flora and fauna on display.
Uzhhorod, on the border with Slovakia and near the border with Hungary, is a vibrant and diverse town with a sizeable Hungarian and Romanian population that gives it a cosmopolitan feel that has helped to bolster its claim to fame as a premium tourist attraction in Ukraine. Come here for the stunning Uzhhorod Castle that dates from the 9th century, as well as the Greek-Catholic Cathedral from the 17th century. If you want to try some of the local staples then you can explore the city’s famous wine cellars, or try the delicacy bogrács, a kind of goulash originating from neighboring Hungary.
Kamyanets-Podilskyi, a city in the west of Ukraine, has a long history of immigration and each influence is present in the architecture and culture of the city, including Armenian and Polish markets still found today. The city is awash with ancient monuments such as its castle, cathedral, and crumbling fortifications and, due to its location on the Smotrych River, there are an abundance of outdoor activities for those wanting to do something a little different. Among these are balloon trips over the Smotrych Canyon, as well as race car driving. Also located over the Smotrych River is the Stara Fortetsya, an ancient city fortress that invites visitors to marvel at the preserved ruins.
The historic centre of the city of Lviv is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visitors will be able to understand why due to the wealth of monuments and ancient buildings on show here, many of which date back to the 13th century. Aside from the historical jewels on offer here, Lviv is famous for being an artistic hub in Ukraine, and there are galleries all over the city as well as the Lviv National Art Gallery that is said to house over 50,000 works including paintings, sculptures, and art installations. If you enjoy opera or ballet, then Lviv is also famous for its classically trained performers and opulent performances in regular rotation.
Founded in the 16th century, the city of Zhovkva in the west of Ukraine is the place to come if you enjoy marveling at a whole host of historical gems including the Church of Saint Lawrence which is an iconic building in the city due to its domed roof. Dating from the 17th century is church made of wood, the Holy Trinity Church that was recently named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and other memorable ancient sites include the restored Zhovkva Castle, which now houses a cultural centre for those who want to learn more about the history and culture of this area of Ukraine.
Located in one of the regions that forms part of Crimea, Yalta is primarily known for being a laid back resort that faces the Black Sea. There is a long seafront promenade for visitors who want to take in the views over the Crimean Peninsula as well as a zoo and an aquarium that houses dolphins. For even more stunning vies, ride by cable car to the top of the nearby Darsan Hill, and there is also the breathtaking Froros Church that is nestled atop a sea cliff at an elevation of 400 meters. Over the years Yalta has attracted a host of famous figures such as Anton Chekhov and visitors to the area can visit his former home that now serves as a museum.
The capital city of Ukraine, Kyiv is most well known for its diverse population, interesting modern architecture, and friendly locals. It also features the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Kyiv Monastery of the Caves and Saint Sophia Cathedral, and although visitors can tour the monastery, it is also still in working order. There are a range of museums to choose from in Kyiv in order to learn more about the local history or culture, or you can check out the latest theatre listings at one of the smaller theatres like the famous Puppet Theatre. This may well be the capital of Ukraine, but it is also an extremely green city featuring not one but two botanical gardens that are perfect for strolling around in the afternoons under the iconic horse chestnut trees that line the roads of Kyiv.
Slavske, to the southwest of Lviv, is best known as a ski resort, so if you love the snow then this is the place to come. There are cable cars and ski lifts as well as primary slopes for skiers to enjoy, and the season usually runs from approximately November to March. Should you visit in the summer months, there are lots of other activities to enjoy in Slavske such as berry and mushroom picking in the fertile lands, as well as fishing in the surrounding lakes. If you prefer to keep exploring then there are hiking trails as well as horse riding and mountain biking excursions that provide an alternative perspective from which to take in the views.
Zaporizhia, on the banks of the Dnieper River, is most well known for its quaint islands including the main island of Khortytsia that sits in the middle of the city. The island is actually a national park and features romantically rugged terrain and has wild ravines and a number of hiking trails that are popular with visitors year round. As this is an island, there are also water activities like swimming and boating, as well as small sandy beaches to relax on. Also on the island is a military museum featuring weaponry and period reconstructions of famous battles. Other small islands found around Zaporizhia are the Rock of the Fool and Pillar Island.
The city of Vinnytsia lies on the banks of the rather comically named Southern Bug, actually the second longest river in Ukraine. The city has a cozy feel to it and lends itself to strolling around the main centre to marvel at the splendid architecture on offer here. Some highlights include the walls built as fortifications of a Jesuit monastery that still stand proud, and now also house the Museum of Local History for history buffs to learn all about the period features on show here. They even have a mammoth skeleton that is said to be over 30,000 years old!